This week’s post was written by Hallie Clawson, Special Projects Assistant at the University of Washington Tacoma Library, on behalf of the ACRL President’s Program Planning Committee.
ALA Annual 2019 is now less than a week away, and with it this President’s Program Planning Committee — and our blog series — will conclude our year of service. Through the creation of this site, the workshop with Terryl Ross at ALA Midwinter, and the upcoming ACRL President’s Program with Angela Spranger, we have had a single goal: to reinforce ACRL’s Core Commitment to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion by providing resources, information, and an opportunity for discussion around this vital topic.
Huge thanks is due to the twenty amazing guest authors who have shared their experiences, insights, and practical tips throughout the past year. Please check out our Featured Author page to learn more about them (and revisit their blog posts)! This series has covered empathetic and dialogic ways to approach the EDI conversation, getting new professionals on board with EDI through LIS education and recruitment, how to evaluate your own organization’s messaging, hiring, and retention policies, and how to incorporate EDI in your daily work from cataloging to instructional design to welcoming new colleagues. Our gratitude also goes out to our readers, who have come with us over the past months as we have learned and discussed. Whoever you are, whatever your role, this series is meant for you.
This project is, of course, only one small contribution to the ongoing discussion in libraries. I hope only to place a tiny pebble in Justice’s scales, tipping our profession slightly closer to equity. ACRL President Lauren Pressley’s decision to center this program around organizational change is part of a greater shift libraries need to make in order to embed equitable and antiracist principles throughout their praxis. There has been a lot of investment in the pipeline, in recruitment and residencies, and as we’ve discussed most recently in LIS education. This investment is important! As our profession has grown in diversity, including increasing numbers of BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People of Color) information professionals, we also need to support their ability not just to get a foot in the door, but to have ongoing, meaningful support from their colleagues, their bosses, and their professional organizations throughout their daily lives and work.
Last year, then-ACRL President Cheryl Middleton selected Beyond Resilience: Crafting a Caring Organization as her program theme, specifically focusing on “how library administration and workers can make libraries and librarianship more equitable and caring for all members of the organization” (Slebodnik, 2018). We’ve tried to continue that conversation by discussing ways that organizations can fundamentally change their culture. Why can’t organizations adapt to the increasingly diverse world around us? Why shouldn’t “old dogs” — library directors, university administrators, Boards of Directors — learn new inclusive tricks? We hope that through this series we have offered some ideas for how to make that idea a reality.
I also want to emphasize that the process of changing your organization to be more inclusive does, in fact, mean changing the organization. This is not simply a matter of bringing the “underrepresented” to the same table that white folks have dominated for so long. In the long run, it means decolonizing, breaking down barriers, and shifting the narrative. It means making a new table, or getting rid of the table entirely to find something better.
Looking forward to Annual, I hope you will join us in Washington D.C. at our capstone event for this series: Lauren Pressley’s ACRL President’s Program. Dr. Angela Spranger is a Lecturer in Management at the Luter School of Business, Christopher Newport University, as well as the owner of StepOne Consulting LLC. She provides consulting services in management, human resources, and labor/management relations, as well as doing scholarly work on these topics. She will discuss her book, Why People Stay: Helping Employees Feel Safe, Seen, and Valued (published by Routledge in 2018), and how we can utilize her principles in library work. We are thrilled to invite her, and hope you will welcome her in D.C.! The program will be in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center (WCC), Room 146A, from 10:30am to noon on Saturday, June 22nd. Click here to see the event on the official ALA Annual scheduler, and add it to your calendar.
Now of course, the work is far from done. There will be more posts coming out on this platform before the blog series is declared finished, including a follow-up on the program at Annual and a reflection from Lauren Pressley. Incoming ACRL President Karen Munro has also indicated her commitment to EDI issues, with a focus on inviting library users into the conversation. I’ll be excited to see what comes next from her and from ACRL. Stay tuned after ALA Annual for more!
[Edited 6/18/19 to add details on Karen Munro's planned ACRL Presidential theme.]